Sunday 31 December 2023

A Midsummer Night’s Dream COMMENT 29 Dec 2023



Written by William Shakespeare

Australian Shakespeare Company

At  Botanical Gardens, Southern Cross Lawn, until 11 Feb 20224

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: NA

NB: Apologies to the company but I had to leave the performance early due to unforeseen circumstances. For this reason, the following is an observation rather than a full review of the production. 

I’ll present a radio comment on Arts Weekly on 3MBS When we restart in early Feb 2024. KH


Fletcher O'Leary, Hugh Sexton, Cameron Shook and Syd Brisbane_Credit Ben Fon

Glenn Elston’s 35th production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream under the stars is playful, youthful and irreverent, cheekily incorporating contemporary language, attitudes and references to update Shakespeare’s text and appeal to audiences unfamiliar with the Bard.


The Mechanicals are like a clutch of tittering, testosterone-soaked teenage boys who would hear sexual innuendo in a teacup. Syd Brisbane’s Puck has a devilish attitude and a primate-like gait and he compels his two acrobatic fairies (Fletcher O’Leary, Cierra Shook) to do his and Oberon’s bidding.


There are some notable performances, including the impressive Larissa Teale as Helena; Teale adroitly penetrates the poetic text, creating a credible and comprehensible Helena and giving the audience access to Shakespeare. Hugh Sexton is, as always, a treat to watch; he is dignified as Theseus and compelling as Oberon, the Fairy King.


As ever, the exquisite Botanical Gardens and its resident wildlife provide an evocative environmental backdrop to the simple staging.


Get out there with our picnic and see this celebratory and entertaining summer delight.


by Kate Herbert






HELENA | COBWEB Larissa Teale

HERMIA | FAIRY Olivia McLeod



BOTTOM Elizabeth Brennan

FRANCIS FLUTE Jackson McGovern

SNUG | FAIRY Henny Walters


MOTH Claire Duncan


Saturday 9 December 2023

KateHerbert ArtsWeekly 3MBS Sat9DEC2023

In this last Arts Weekly 3MBS radio spot for 2023, I review Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at Red Stitch and Lady Day at the Emerson Bar and Grill by MTC with Zahra Newman as Billie Holiday.


Tuesday 28 November 2023

Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill REVIEW 28 Nov 2023


Written by Lanie Robertson

At Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne extended until 9 Dec 2023

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ***** (5)

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly on 3MBS on Sat 9 Dec 2023. Apologies that I'll review it on air after close of season. KH

Zahra Newman -Lady Day_pic by Matt_Byrne
Zahra Newman totally inhabits the heart, body and spirit of Billie Holiday, known as Lady Day, in her inspired and poignant performance of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill.


Accompanied by a tight, gifted and very cool jazz trio (Kym Purling on piano, Dan Witton on upright bass, Edward York on drums), Newman, wearing a gleaming, white satin gown, addresses us as if we were a devoted audience at Emerson’s in Philadelphia, a bar that she knows so well from her chequered past. Lady is supported – in all meanings of the word – on stage by Jimmy, her pianist, show-host and sublimely patient, current beau, who encourages and prompts her whenever the need arises – which is often by the end of the evening.


Newman is a gifted jazz singer in her own right, but she also captures impeccably the bluesy-jazz stylings of Holiday’s singing, and the drawling, slightly slurred tones of her speech as she becomes progressively more intoxicated, to the point where she can barely stand. The voice and dialect coaching by Geraldine Cook-Dafner must be commended.


Zahra Newman -Lady Day_pic by Matt_Byrne

The live music, and Newman’s vocal renditions of Holiday’s exceptional repertoire of songs, are thrilling and musical arrangements by Danny Holgate are captivating.


But it is profoundly painful to witness this great talent, Holiday, disintegrating before our eyes, as she re-tells and re-lives dramatic, tragic and painful episodes from her past, including her appalling choice of partner, her heroin addiction, and the imprisonment that ended her career.


The song list includes some full tunes and many snatches of Holiday’s popular melodies, including her most famous and most requested songs, God Bless the Child, and Strange Fruit.


Mitchell Butel’s direction is discreet and unobtrusive, focusing the eye and the ear on Newman and allowing the audience to experience the immediacy of Newman’s performance as Holiday’s story unfolds and her character unravels.


Lanie Robertson’s script draws on Holiday’s lived experiences, illuminating the woman and her life and trials, but never slipping into exposition.


This is an exceptional night at the theatre and Newman’s charismatic performance must be seen. Forget the Chrissie shopping! Rush out now!


by Kate Herbert



Billie Holiday Zahra Newman
Alternate Billie Holiday Elenoa Rokobaro
Jimmy Powers Kym Purling



Upright Bass Dan Witton
Drums Edward York



Director Mitchell Butel
Associate Director Zahra Newman
Musical Arrangements Danny Holgate

Musical Director & Additional Arrangements Kym Purling
Set & Costume Designer Ailsa Paterson
Lighting Designer Govin Ruben
Sound Designer Andrew Howard
Voice & Dialogue Coach Geraldine Cook-Dafner
Voice & Dialogue Coach Jennifer Innes

Stage Manager Bridget Samuel
Assistant Stage Manager Sean Proude
Animal Trainers Paws on Film



Saturday 25 November 2023

KateHerbert ArtsWeekly-RADIO REVIEWS-SAT25NOV 2023

In this show, I review A Very Jewish Christmas Carol at MTC and A Christmas Carol by Old Vic with Owen Teale at Comedy Theatre, Melbourne. Two very different adaptations of Dicken's for theatre.

 The Old Vic one is much more successful than the other. k

Friday 24 November 2023

A Christmas Carol REVIEW 23 Nov 2023 *****


A version by Jack Thorne, conceived by Matthew Warchus from Charles Dickens novel

An Old Vic production

At Comedy Theatre Melbourne until 7 Jan 2023

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: ***** (5)

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly on 3MBS on Sat 25 Nov 2023. KH

NB: I “re-purposed” some content from my 2022 review of this production, where it was still relevant. K

A CHRISTMAS CAROL 2023_c Jeff Busby   
Matthew Warchus’s exhilarating production of A Christmas Carol, adapted by Jack Thorne from Dickens’ ripping yarn, is a very Christmassy feast of carols, choral harmonies, mass bell ringing, snow, faith, hope and charity and even a veritable feast of fruits, vegetables, meat platters, puddings and breads all sliding down from the balcony along draped sheets to the stage and into wicker baskets. Yes, real food – mostly.


The pre-show musical entertainment includes actors dispensing mince pies and mandarins to audience members who wave furiously at actors to get their hands on the Chrissy nosh.


Thorne’s version of Dickens’ story extracts crucial moments, takes licence with some dialogue, and omits some characters and scenes because, let’s face it, Dickens’ book would take many hours to perform in full.


The centre of this morality tale is Ebenezer Scrooge, played by virtuoso UK actor, Owen Teale, who manages to take Scrooge from ferocious to vulnerable by the end of the show. Scrooge is a miserly old moneylender who thinks Christmas is ‘humbug’ (He says the word only once in this show.) and who underpays and makes unreasonable demands on his dutiful, hard-working office clerk, Bob Cratchit (Bernard Curry) who lives in poverty with his wife and many children including Tiny Tim (played adorably by Mira Feldman on opening night). Scrooge reviles the carol singers at his door and dismisses his genial nephew, Fred (Andrew Coshan). He suspects everyone wants to steal his money.


Teale’s performance is rich, nuanced and passionate but feels effortless and natural, as if he isn’t acting at all, while his warm, honey-toned voice soothes and charms, even when Scrooge is being mightily mean. Teale’s transformation from this stone-hearted old grump into joyful, bouncing, childlike benefactor is swift but credible, and his 180-degree change triggers the truly joyous Christmas celebration and feast that follows at the Cratchit’s home.


The supporting cast is outstanding with Debra Lawrance as the wry, pert, elderly Christmas Past, and Samantha Morley as the critical, chivvying Christmas Present. The entire cast takes the role of Christmas Future – a group of black-clad veiled ghostly figures – while Scrooge’s late sister, Little Fann (Aisha Aidara) takes Scrooge to view his own, desperately lonely funeral at which he learns his lesson of love and kinship.


Anthony Harkin is compelling as Jacob Marley and his warm, velvety baritone is welcome in the final song, Grant Piro’s Fezziwig is playful and naïve, while Sarah Morrison is warm and composed as Belle, Scrooge’s past love.


We marvel like children at Rob Howell’s gloriously atmospheric set design of tumbled lanterns and drop lights, falling snow, Scrooge’s money boxes and secret compartments in the stage floor, and Hugh Vanstone‘a evocative, often spooky, sometimes festive lighting. The music, composed by Christopher Nightingale, is an imaginative collision of Christmas carols, a capella harmonies, inspired bell ringing and haunting soundscape, played by a live band perched in a balcony box and musicians who are on stage.


A Christmas Carol, with its dancing, singing, snacks, tears and laughter, is a delicious Christmas tonic that reminds us of those who struggle to make ends meet. In London and here, money is collected and donated by the show to charities for the poor. Teale speaks with warmth about donations to FairShare and there are collection boxes at the doors.


by Kate Herbert

Owen Teale & cast CHRISTMAS CAROL 2023_c Jeff Busby

Ebenezer Scrooge - Owen Teale

Cameron Bajraktarevic-Hayward -Young Ebenezer (also cello/double bass)

Bernard Curry - Bob Cratchit

Anthony Harkin - Father / Marley

Andrew Coshan - Fred

Stephanie Lambourn - Mrs Cratchit  (Mandolin)

Debra Lawrance - Ghost of Christmas Past

Samantha Morley -  Ghost of Christmas Present

Aisha Aidara - Little Fan

 Sarah Morrison - Belle

 Grant Piro -  Fezzwig

Kaya Byrne - Nicholas

Benjamin Colley -George (Accordion/tin whistle)

Deirdre Khoo – Jess

Tiny Tim -  On opening night Tiny Tim played by Mira Friedman; Alexis Abela, Sasha Hampson, Evie Rose Hennessy, Libby Segal 




Jack Thorne -   Adaptation

Matthew Warchus - Director

Rob Howell - Set & Costume

Christopher Nightingale - Composer & Arranger

Peter Rutherford - Australian Musical Director

Hugh Vanstone  -Lighting

Simon Baker - Sound

Lizzi Gee – Movement

Simon Baker – Sound

Campbell Young Assoc- Hair, wigs, make-up


Natasha Fearnside – Reed

Lisa Reynolds – Violin

Kalina Krusteva – Cello

Wednesday 22 November 2023

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf REVIEW 18 Nov 2023 ****


Written by Edward Albee

By Red Stitch

At Red Stitch Theatre, St. Kilda, until 17 December 2023

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: **** (4)

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly on 3MBS on Sat 25 Nov 2023. KH


Kat Stewart, Emily Goddard, Harvey Zielinski, David Whiteley-image by Jodie Hutchinson

Edward Albee’s play is a brutal examination – or rather, dissection – of the dysfunctional and volatile marriage of George (David Whiteley) and Martha (Kat Stewart), a bitter, frustrated and hard-drinking middle-aged couple.


The play is set in the couple’s home (designer, Harriet Oxley) after a college faculty party hosted by Martha’s father, the college president. Late that night, the hunky new and young biology lecturer, Nick (Harvey Zielinski), and his mousey wife, Honey (Emily Goddard), visit George and Martha for a few tipples. Little do they know what is to come.


46-year-old George, a lecturer in the history department, is deeply embittered that he has hit a ceiling on the ladder to seniority and he blames Martha’s father for stymieing his academic rise. Martha, who is six years older than George, resents his failure and punishes him at every turn for disappointing her and ruining her ambitions.


George, Martha and their two unwitting guests continue to drink hard liquor into the wee hours. What could go wrong?


Over this harrowing night, the petty bickering and verbal sparring, routine humiliation, point-scoring and bizarre psychological games that George and Martha play begin to affect and infect Nick and Honey. George and Martha are patients zero in an awful, viral contagion. Their alcohol fuelled brawling and scrapping morphs into Martha’s boozy seduction of Nick and, finally, it reveals their shared despair. By the end, we witness the shreds of a fragile bond that keeps George and Martha clinging to each other.


The pair take no prisoners, except for Nick and Honey who, in the face of such vitriol, seem incapable of leaving. Why? we might ask. Why not just get up and go? But where’s the drama in that?


With taut direction by Sarah Goodes, each of this talented cast gives detailed, nuanced and compelling performances and feast on Albee’s gritty and challenging characters and dialogue. In the intimate, Red Stitch space, we are so close to the actors that we are almost sitting in their laps; we can smell their boozy breath and sip their bourbon.


This is a production worth seeing, particularly if you’ve never seen Albee’s scarifying, masterly drama on film or stage.



Emily Goddard

Kat Stewart

David Whiteley

Harvey Zielinski

Damon Baudin (Understudy)


Writer: Edward Albee

Director: Sarah Goodes

Set & Costume Design: Harriet Oxley

Lighting Design: Jason Ng Junjie
Sound Design & Composition: Grace Ferguson & Ethan Hunter

Asst. Director: Keegan Bragg

Set & Costume Design Asst.: Natalie Petrellis

Stage Manager: Kelly Wilson

Asst. Stage Manager: Georgina Bright

A Very Jewish Christmas Carol REVIEW 20 Nov 2023 **1/2


Written by Elise Esther Hearst with Phillip Kavanagh

After Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

By Melbourne Theatre Company

At The Sumner, Southbank Theatre until 16 December 2023

Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Stars: **1/2

This review is published only on this blog. I’ll present a radio review on Arts Weekly on 3MBS on Sat 25 Nov 2023. KH


Evelyn Krape-A-Very-Jewish-Christmas-Carol.-Photo-by-Pia-Johnson

Chrismukkah is upon us! Christmas, with all its tinsel, trees and Jesus, collides with Chanukkah in A Very Jewish Christmas Carol.


Steel yourself for an audacious take on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in which the belligerent, miserly, misanthropic Scrooge is Elysheva Scroogavitz (Miriam Glaser), known as Ely, a reclusive and sad, young Jewish woman who wrestles with family, pregnancy, a failing bakery she inherited from her grandmother, her Bubi (Evelyn Krape), and the recent death of her baby’s daddy (Michael Whalley) by ill-timed bee-sting.


Nothing is sacred in this script written by Elise Esther Hearst with Phillip Kavanagh and directed by Sarah Giles. Both Christmas and Channukah, Christian and Jewish customs get a pasting. Music, food, characters and rituals from both cultures merge into Chrismukkah parodies.


The ghosts arrive in bizarre cross-cultural, Chrismukkah forms: a smart-talking Rein-dybbuk (Louise Siversen), a hilarious, childlike gingerbread Golem (Krape) and Lilith (Natalie Gamsu) as a grim-faced, black-gowned, spooky sort of cabaret singer. Amidst the demon ghosts is Ely’s vivid, acerbic and critical Bubi, played with relish by Krape.


The audience guffawed at the cheap and cheesy jokes, the dialogue littered with Jewish humour and cultural references, and the recognisable characters: overbearing mother (Gamsu), flighty little sister (Emma Jevons), every-present Rabbi (Jude Perl), intrusive mother-in-law (Siversen), and grumpy albeit dead, grandmother.


Ely’s Christian mother-in-law is ridiculed for her ignorance of Jewish culture and rituals and her obsession with all things Christmassy. (Her treatment, unfortunately, has a whiff of bigotry.)


Despite the hilarity, the production and the script are not totally successful. The link to Dickens’ story is tenuous and it’s a stretch to see Ely as anything other than a depressed, grieving young mother-to-be. Bubi ‘s character and back story would make a far more convincing and effective Scrooge.


After the chaos of the first 80 minutes, the play takes a turn for the dramatic and tragic as Bubi revisits her past and her family in pre-war Poland, the last time she saw them alive. There is a mismatch between the style and execution of these two parts; so much so that it feels like two different plays.


The acting is uneven amongst the cast, but Krape steals she show with her bolshy Bubi and ebullient bouncing gingerbread child. It’s worth the ticket just to see Krape gambol around the stage like a mad, wind-up toy.



by Kate Herbert

Miriam Glaser-A-Very-Jewish-Christmas-Carol.-Photo-by-Pia-Johnson


Fran / Lilith / Ensemble Natalie Gamsu
Ely Miriam Glaser
Sarah / Ensemble Emma Jevons
Bubi / Golem / Ensemble Evelyn Krape
Rivka / Ensemble Jude Perl
Carol / Rein-Dybbuk / Ensemble Louise Siversen
Ben / Ensemble Michael Whalley



Director Sarah Giles
Associate Director Cassandra Fumi
Musical Director / Arranger Jude Perl
Set Designer Jacob Battista
Costume Designer Dann Barber
Lighting Designer Richard Vabre
Composer & Sound Designer Jed Palmer
Design Concept Contributor Jonathon Oxlade
Additional Composition Jude Perl
Voice & Text Coach Matt Furlani
Fight Choreographer Lyndall Grant
Intimacy Coordinator Cessalee Stovall
Polish Translation & Language Coach Krystyna Duszniak
Yiddish Translation Rebecca (Rivke) Margolis
Yiddish Language Coach & Song Translation Freydi Mrocki

Directing Intern (VCA) Kathryn Yates
Set Design Intern (VCA) Ishan Vivekanantham
Costume Design Intern (VCA) Louisa Fitzgerald

Stage Manager Whitney McNamara
Deputy Stage Manager Meg Richardson
Assistant Stage Manager Brittany Stock

Rehearsal Photographer Charlie Kinross
Production Photographer Pia Johnson
Marketing Campaign Photographer Jo Duck